I am new at IELTS test and am looking at the sample tests from IELTS' official website. I have a question regarding the question 4 in the sample Academic Reading sample task – Identifying writer's views:

  1. Thirty per cent of deaths in the United States are caused by smoking-related diseases.

I think that the answer to this question should be NOT GIVEN as the text only indicated:

Smoking, it is believed, is responsible for 30 per cent of all deaths from cancer and clearly represents the most important preventable cause of cancer in countries like the United States today.

However, as the text, itself, did not make clear whether smoking-related diseases are responsible for 30 per cent of all deaths in the United States, I believe that the answer to the question 4 should be NOT GIVEN.

Can anyone enlighten me with some explanations? Should I employ outside knowledge in IETLS or shouldn't I?

  • 5
    Sorry, ntvy, guessing how much common sense various examiners possess / require is off-topic. But note that '30% of all deaths in the US' is very different from '30% of all deaths from cancer [worldwide?]', and smoking-related diseases include more than cancers. Commented May 29, 2017 at 14:07
  • 2
    Rules for such tests ask you not to use outside knowledge. That way, the test can pinpoint whether you can analyze what you read in the text. Your text does not say 30% of deaths come from smoking. Commented May 29, 2017 at 14:30
  • @EdwinAshworth Thank you very much for your indication, I have made mistakes due to being in skimming mode. I have edited the answer and the gist of my question is still the same.
    – ntvy95
    Commented May 29, 2017 at 16:48
  • 1
    @YosefBaskin Thank you for your confirmation of not using outside knowledge, but I don't think it can be logically deduced that the statement in the question 4 is wrong either.
    – ntvy95
    Commented May 29, 2017 at 16:50
  • @YosefBaskin ... which is why OP is right and the answer is not given. Commented May 29, 2017 at 20:42

1 Answer 1


The answer NO is wrong.

Even without using the outside knowledge that cancer does not cause 100% of the deaths in the United States, the answer should be NOT GIVEN.

Why? The reading mentions that smoking contributes to heart disease, but it doesn't give any statistics. So to get the total percentage of deaths caused by smoking, you need to take 30% of the deaths by cancer, and add the deaths from smoking-related heart disease and other smoking-related diseases. (In fact, looking at the statistics, the deaths caused by smoking-related cancer are slightly less than half the total deaths caused by smoking.)

  • Thank you very much for your response. I hope I did not read your argument wrong: So what you mean by in mathematical sense is that: P(smoking) = P(smoking|cancer)*P(cancer) + P(smoking|heart disease)*P(heart disease) + P(smoking|other)*P(other), and we only have P(smoking|cancer) stated in the text? What do you mean by "looking at the statistics", are you referring the outside knowledge?
    – ntvy95
    Commented May 29, 2017 at 17:14
  • You read it right. And by "looking at the statistics", I did look up the outside knowledge on the Internet. Commented May 29, 2017 at 18:32
  • Yep, that's exactly right. Commented May 29, 2017 at 20:40

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